Artist as Healer

Culture Lab: Artist as Healer


Culture Lab: Artist as Healer is our new multi-year initiative, offered in partnership with one of ISAS’s founding cultural partners Canada India Network Society (CINS) with significant multi-year support from the Vancouver Foundation through their Systems Change grant. The project invites and resources South Asian artists in Metro Vancouver to work collaboratively with other artists, mentors, and members of the medical and wellness communities to develop healing methodologies through art. The project creates the space and resources for artists to come up with remedies against despair and potions for joy. The lab is conceptualized by Sirish Rao, co-founder and Artistic Director of ISAS who guides the artistic component of the lab, with the Chair of CINS, Dr. Arun Garg, MD FRCPS as the inaugural Medical Director of the Artist as Healer project.


We’re excited to introduce you to Yogacharini Maitreyi, the inaugural lead artist of the Culture Lab: Artist as Healer project. Maitreyi straddles the worlds of the arts and healing. She is a trained filmmaker with a degree in visual communications, as well as an international master yoga teacher, practical mystic, and founder of Arkaya Awareness Centre and Arkaya Foundation. For the last 25 years, she has been dedicated to sharing and teaching mindfulness and expansive life principles. Since 1997 in India,  Maitreyi has been given titles: Yoga Chemmal (expert), Yoga Shiromani (gem), and Yoga Acharini (guide). In 2007 she was one of the youngest people to be invited to the Advisory Board of the World Yoga Council in Europe. She has shared the deeper dimensions of yoga, self-management, and sattvic tantra worldwide. This includes seeing and shifting within ourselves, deep-rooted conditioning that is divisive, exploitative, colonial, or disrespectful. You can learn even more about her from her website here.

Inaugural Artist: Yogacharini Maitreyi

“The Artist as Healer project is an awakening to the beauty inherent in science and the science inherent in art. I am very excited that I get to work on synergies close to my heart with a dream team. Special thanks to Dr. Arun Garg and Sirish for their enthusiasm and input.  This is of even more value during these unsettling times. We need to not only spread the healing integrative wisdom of ancient cultures but also be a custodian of the wealth that could be lost due to overemphasis on symptomatic treatment rather than addressing root imbalances. I am very excited to share and document the healing that organically unfolds when the right attitudes, world view, community and rebalancing tools are embraced.”  – Yogacharini Maitreyi

Dr. Arun Garg expressed excitement to support Maitreyi’s research and exploration. “I am delighted that the project’s inaugural artist is Maitreyi, who has deep knowledge of artistic practices as well as traditional healing practices and philosophies. Having spent a lifetime in the medical profession, I know that healing is a complex art, and that elements of sight, smell, hearing are as critical as any other elements. I am a steadfast proponent of integrative thinking and integrative healing, and that is exactly what Maitreyi is proposing.”

Sirish Rao says “Indian Summer Arts Society is building a movement that harnesses the transformative power of the arts to heal and ensure the wellbeing of the community. Maitreyi has been working and educating in this space for most of her career, and we are delighted to be able to support a deeper exploration of some of her concerns. I have no doubt that our community will only benefit from what she has to share. Congratulations, Maitreyi!” I’d like to thank our amazing jurors – Shahaa Kakar, Meharoona Ghani, and Dr. Arun Garg for the care, rigor, and quality of attention they brought to this process, as well as my colleague Laura June Albert, who as ISAS’ Development and Community Initiatives Manager put in immense amounts of work to resource this project, and was instrumental in its design.


Concept, Design, and Artistic Director: Sirish Rao

Inaugural Medical Director: Dr. Arun Garg, MD FRCPS

Development and Design: Laura June Albert

Advisors and Inaugural Jury Members: Shahaa Kakar, Meharoona Ghani, Jarrett Martineau


Shahaa Kakar is a Master Therapeutic Counsellor and Co-Founder of Breathing Space Counselling in Port Moody. Shahaa draws on a number of counseling modalities, including Relational Somatic Therapy, Trauma-Informed practice, Bowen Family Systems Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Transpersonal Psychology, among others. In addition to her counseling career, Shahaa is a veteran of non-profit/charitable sectors in both the UK & Canada with a focus on the arts and has played various roles in the arts sector including music promotion, event management, strategy, and development, and executive leadership.

Meharoona Ghani is a published poet featured in many anthologies including, the way out is the way in an anthology of disabled poets; Body & Soul: Stories for Skeptics and Seekers; and The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth. Her recent endeavors included a keynote address for the Global Conference on Disability and Islam; and a 2020/21 Artist in Residence Fellowship at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Studies on Religion and Society. During the residency, she continued to write Letters to Rumi – her autobiographical journey on identity and belonging. 

Dr. Arun Garg, Ph.D., MD, FRCPC has served as Program Medical Director for Fraser Health Regional Department of Laboratory Medicine for 20 years and Division Head of Medical Biochemistry for over 30 years. He is also a Clinical Professor of Pathology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia and an Adjunct Professor of Clinical Services in the Faculty of Health Science at Simon Fraser University. He founded the Canada India Network Society in 2010, to build strong links between Canada and India in Life Sciences and Health services. He is a proponent of integrative thinking and believes that bringing medical professionals, artists, and traditional healers together will result in deeply integrated health solutions and societal wellbeing.

Jarrett Martineau is a leading voice in Indigenous media and cultural production. He has worked extensively at the intersections of music, art, media, technology, and social movements in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Berlin, and New York, and he holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Indigenous Governance from the University of Victoria.  He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and CUNY’s Center for Place, Culture and Politics in New York City and his academic research explores the role of art and creativity in advancing Indigenous resurgence and decolonization. Jarett is the host, creator, and producer of Reclaimed, the first-ever Indigenous music series on CBC Radio.


Sirish Rao is a writer, producer, and cultural curator. He is the co-founder & artistic director of the Indian Summer Festival. Sirish was born in India and spent a decade as Director of Tara Books, which he helped grow into one of India’s most respected publishing houses. Sirish is also a published writer whose books have been translated into seventeen languages. Sirish has been a member of the jury for the City of Vancouver Book Awards, the Ethel Wilson Prize for fiction, and the 2021 Lt. Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence.